SMITH COLUMN: What a night: Watching the Braves sweep the Mets

Published 9:30 am Thursday, October 6, 2022

An invitation to take in a Braves game Sunday night was too alluring not to accept although it was far from a propitious time to enjoy the final game that turned out to be the Braves’ sweep of the Mets.

Atlanta awoke on Monday morning with the magic number of one to clinch the division and gain a bye for the playoffs. (And clinched the division Monday night.)

After returning to Athens from Columbia, Missouri, at 3 a.m. and having work piled up for the next day, it would have been easy to have passed on taking in the stimulating victory over the once seemingly invincible Mets.  However, I weakened and joined good friends at the ballpark they call Truist.  

All during the exciting game, I thought about the history of this park and its impact on Cobb County. How the Braves were able to maneuver behind the scenes and put together a real estate deal to move the team from downtown Atlanta is something that truly boggles the mind. I still don’t know how they pulled it off. Just happy that they did.

It is as if the ballpark is the epicenter of a city or a community. I suppose that it really is what it is when you come down to the essence of the location of this Big-League franchise. The shops, restaurants, office buildings and attractions appear to be something that Walt Disney might have dreamed up. It reeks of class. You can sense the energy and excitement which comes with a night out with the Braves.

If you find your way to Truist (which you can do again next April) you sense the energy that comes with being on site with the defending World Series champions. In the daytime when the ballpark is empty, you find yourself in an upscale city. There is nothing but sizzle with the Battery and its environment.

There are no eyesores, no trash, no junk loitering anywhere. Just a comfortable environment with happy people all about — shopping, relaxing and emotionally stimulated by having the good fortune to work in such an uplifting environment.  The entire scene surely has a positive effect on the players and their families.

Take me out to the ball game,

Take me out with the crowd,

Buy me some popcorn, Peanuts and Crackerjack

I don’t care if we never get back.

When Jack Norworth composed those lyrics back in 1908, he had never seen a big-league game. It probably would boggle his mind if he had been told that those lyrics would stand the test of time. Now we sing those lyrics with the greatest of fervor during the seventh inning stretch of games all across America.

I remember sitting in the late Harry Caray’s booth for a double header at Wrigley Field several years ago. Skip, his son, made the arrangements. It was a delightful experience, but Harry made sure that when the 7th inning stretch came about in each game that I did not sing. That was fine with me since I can’t sing.  

Remembering Harry allows for going off script. He shared with me, over a drink afterwards, his story about having been twice divorced. He recalled that he was writing alimony checks at the ballpark one day.

To one of the checks, he attached a note, “Just how much longer is this going to go on?” A few days later came her pungent reply, “Dear Harry. Till death do us part.”

I thought of that vignette when the 7th inning stretch came up Sunday night at Truist Park. As I flashed back to Harry singing baseball’s time-honored anthem in my mind’s eye, I gave a thumbs up to his grandson Chip who was calling the game on television in the press box. By the way, I did sing Sunday night. I was downright happy, too.

While I have always made my living in football, I find the baseball experience great fun and thought it was classic that the two most popular teams in the state — the Braves and the Dawgs — won championships last year.  

Heading home after the sweep, I had a recurring thought. An off night in Columbia does not mean that the Bulldogs have lost their thunder, but as it is with the Braves, needing one more win for a clinching victory, nothing is guaranteed. You have to make it happen.